Jeffrey Weichman, of Corning, is a professional pyrotechnician who’s been shooting fireworks for a Yarmouth company since 1993. Weichman says there are rules for celebrating safely and the first rule is to keep fireworks away from buildings and people.
“You need to be at least 175 feet away from a structure or the spectators that are watching your fireworks to safely discharge them,” Weichman says. “Even though they are just consumer fireworks, they are extremely powerful and they can be very, very dangerous.” Weichman says there are two different classifications of fireworks, with serious consequences for using the wrong kind. He says people need to know the difference between consumer-grade fireworks and professional-grade.
“Those are not available to the general public and there’s a lot of misinformation,” he says. “You cannot buy cherry bombs, you cannot buy salutes, those are strictly for professionals and if you get caught with such fireworks, to be in possession of illegal fireworks, those are federal charges.” It could result in prison time and a hefty fine. The consequences for mishandling fireworks can be even higher, like the loss of a finger or your eyesight. If you buy the type that will launch multiple rockets or fireworks in succession, but very sure to secure it to the ground.
“Drive a piece of rebar in it, put sandbags around it, or put it in a wooden box so if it does tip over, it isn’t going to be shooting at you,” Weichman says. “If it does malfunction, get away from it. Let it finish doing its thing, then go up and douse it with water.”
If you light a firework and it’s a “dud,” don’t approach it and don’t try to relight it. Let it sit for as much as 20 minutes, then douse it with water. An ABC-type fire extinguisher that uses dry chemicals won’t work on fireworks. Also, don’t dispose of fireworks, used or unused, by throwing them in a lake or stream as they contain chemicals that can poison the water and kill fish. Weichman offers more safety tips for lighting fireworks.
“Read the directions on the box and the packaging,” he says. “Never lean over the fireworks. Light it at arm’s length and don’t put any part of your body over that firework that you’re not willing to lose.” Find more safety tips at www.americanpyro.com.
The sale and use of fireworks is now permitted in Iowa from June 1st through July 8th and from December 10th through January 3rd. Cities and counties can ban the use of fireworks, but not their sale.
(By Ric Hanson, KJAN, Atlantic)